The government's thinking on the role played by bicycles as a form of transport is misconceived. The policy which has been adopted views cycling as merely a form of recreation, not a means by which people can travel to work or school or to run errands. Consequently, riding bikes outside the recreational cycleways in the New Territories can be dangerous. Few parking spaces are provided and authorities have no qualms about impounding those they deem to be illegally parked and making it difficult, if not impossible, to reclaim them. It is a nonsensical approach that is denying us travel options, better health and cleaner air.
Hong Kong's approach is out of step with many other parts of the world. Cities elsewhere have embraced bicycles, seeing them as the best way to combat traffic congestion, air pollution and the growing epidemic of obesity. They are providing cycling networks, particularly in inner-city areas, parking places and free learn-to-ride courses. Some have schemes which make it easy to rent a bike. In Hong Kong, however, the government views transport primarily in terms of cars, buses and trains.
The Transport Department says the roads are too busy and narrow, roadside air pollution levels too high, space too limited to provide parking and the weather too uncomfortable in summer for bikes. Mexico City, where all these also apply, does not have a problem, though, nor do Sydney, London and the countless other cities with thriving cycling cultures. What is essentially a bicycle morgue on government land in Sai Kung says it all - dozens of impounded bikes piled high, seemingly unable to be reclaimed by their owners, destined to be sold at auction for scrap. Cycling groups estimate Hong Kong has one million bicycles. With increasingly vocal complaints about the lack of parking spaces and the difficulty of getting back impounded bikes, it is time demand was properly assessed. World trends is one matter, but meeting citizens' needs is quite another.